Ground cedar is native to Canada, Greenland, northern and central Europe,
Russia, China, Japan, India, Thailand, and the northern United States: cool temperate regions
around the world. They appear in open woodlands, thickets, heathland or rocky slopes.
Plants: These perennials creep along the ground
via stolons, roots that are on or near the surface of the ground, though they are often obscured by
leaf litter. Along the roots erect stems appear, branching multiply, making what looks like miniature
cedar shrubs. (Ground cedar, a clubmoss, is entirely unrelated to cedars, which are conifer shrubs.)
They are 3-17" (7.6-43 cm) tall, including their
strobili, vaguely pinecone-like structures.
Leaves: Like real cedars, ground cedar
leaves are flattened, with rough teeth or scales. The leaves are bright green and shiny,
in four vertical rows, sharp-tipped,
partially fused to the stem.
Fruits: Strobilii, reproductive structures, resemble pale
yellow brown miniature pine cones thrust upward well above the plant and held erect on long stalks. They
appear singly or in pairs.
Edibility: Poisonous The plant contains lycopodine, which paralyzes motor nerves. It also contains clavatine, which is toxic to many mammals. The spores are not toxic.